By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express
After suffering through the dreaded sophomore slump, Oshawa native Ryley Davenport came back in a big way during his third year with the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks.
Davenport was named the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) Baseball Hitter of the Year for the 2017 season, as well as a first-team all-star.
In 16 games this past year, Davenport batted .473 with 21 RBIs, 13 runs scored and 35 total bases.
The 6’2, 200 lb. R.S. McLaughlin alum also led the league in hits, on base percentage and slugging percentage.
Named as the OUA Rookie of the Year after his first season as a Golden Hawk in 2015, Davenport says that high was followed by the lows of a second year he’d like to forget.
“Coming off the first year I had, it was very lackluster,” he admits.
After hitting .433 with 11 RBIs in his rookie year, Davenport slumped down to a .176 average in 2016.
Looking back, Davenport says the pressure to live up to his tremendous first season, both from himself and from outside sources, took its toll on him.
“It was definitely a struggle within myself,” he recalls, however, seeing several articles prior to 2016, all predicting huge success for him, didn’t help matters either.
“I was only a second-year player. A lot of pressure was put on me,” Davenport says. “I came out the first two weekends and couldn’t figure it out.”
Coming into the 2017 season, Davenport says he made some changes to his game – both physical and mental.
First off, he revamped his stance at the plate.
“I used to move my hands around a lot when I was waiting for the ball to come in. Now I let the bat rest on my shoulder,” he says. “I was a lot more relaxed and focused more on the pitch.”
Davenport says he also made a conscious effort to have a more relaxed attitude as well.
“I really tried not to let anything bother me,” he states. “It helped me keep my cool and I was able to perform for the team.”
His monster year played a large part in the Golden Hawks going 15-3 and reaching the OUA finals against the University of Toronto.
As the man behind the plate, Davenport serves as a leader in the Laurier defense, however, this past season, he took on a new role at times, playing several games at first base, something he’d never done before.
“Coach approached me and said we only have one established first basemen,” Davenport says.
He was asked to try out the position to keep his hot bat in the line-up at all times.
Davenport gladly accepted the challenge but admitted it took some time to get used to being in a new spot on the field.
“It’s very different from catcher. You really don’t move much,” he says. “I think the most difficult thing is definitely the attentiveness. You can go an inning or two without being close to the ball.”
However, Davenport says he was happy overall with how he performed at first base.
“I’m looking to hopefully split my time between catcher and first.”
As far as what the future holds, Davenport has his eye on possibly playing in the Intercounty Baseball League (IBL), a Southern Ontario-based league featuring college/university and former professional players, in 2018.
“It’s an option for me this summer. It’s something I’d like to pursue,” he adds, noting the IBL would “definitely be a different experience.”
“I’d love to play on that level.”